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WHS teacher experiences German “apprenticeship model” in education

posted Oct 1, 2019, 12:06 PM by Michael Richards
Wells High School social studies and psychology teacher Kevin O’Shaughnessy joined with 12 other American and Canadian teachers to visit Germany and become “fellows” in the Goethe-Institut USA’s Transatlantic Outreach (TOP) Program, Year of German-American Friendship.   

After an orientation in Washington, D.C., the group of educators flew to Munich on July 14.  They attended a formal state dinner with the German Foreign Office and were provided with a seminar in German cultural norms and history.  Over a two-week period, the group toured cities visiting schools and businesses.   

According to a press release from TOP, these tours are to “…bring North Americans and Germans together to enhance the global competence of students, to bridge the “skills gap” between education and workforce development…”   These teaching fellowship tours are funded by the Goethe Institut Washington, Deutsche Bank, Robert Bosch Stiftung, and Siemens. 

O’Shaughnessy pointed out that Germany has a two-track educational system with an apprenticeship model.  One track is referred (roughly to in English) as ‘Reality track’ and the other, ‘University track’. The first path involves vocational training mixed with regular instruction and internships.  The other track is for students who choose to go on to earn an advanced degree.  Reality involves subjects as accounting, robotics and computer technology.  The internships allow students to alternate work with in-school study. 

“Where we tend to have a ‘one size fits all education’ (in the U.S), they tend to let kids create pathways to get certificates”, said O’Shaughnessy who indicated that older German students mentor younger students and that most speak two or three foreign languages.  He also said that the study of arts is very important in German education.  The arts are “an integral part of science, tech, and math” in German education. 

“We need to provide more opportunities for our high school students to explore more apprenticeship and vocational opportunities,” commented O’Shaughnessy who has taught at WHS since 2001.  “Germany has excellent partnerships between employers and schools and that is a major reason why it has the lowest youth unemployment rates in the world”.  

“We have great kids who want to learn how to work and build things,” O’Shaughnessy continued.  He now believes that what we need to make our education better is “…to build partnerships that educate and provide workers for businesses that will help Maine grow its economy and reduce unemployment.”

Included among the other experiences that the group had in Germany was a walking tour around Berlin where they visited the Brandenburg Gate, Munich where they visited the enormous Olympiastadion and Dachau where they visited Dachau Technical School (Reality track) and Dachau High School (University track).  They also had a sobering visit to the former Nazi Dachau Concentration Camp.  And finally, the group experienced some unique accommodations including a stay in a medieval castle remade into a modern hotel. 
Mr. O'Shaughnessy posing in the library
Teacher Kevin O’Shaughnessy in the library at Wells High School

Mr. O'Shaughnessy in Germany
Teacher Kevin O’Shaughnessy at a remaining portion of the Berlin Wall
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